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A journey of love

Mei Mei and Family

A journey of love

The special bond with her mother-in-law enabled a daughter-in-law to walk the last stretch with her without regrets.

I was first introduced to palliative care when St. Andrew’s Community Hospital (SACH) set up its Palliative Care Ward in 2015. Then, I would avoid the ward as facing death denotes sorrow. Palliative care addresses the needs of patients with life-limiting illnesses. The SACH Multidisciplinary Palliative Care Team comprising doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, medical social workers and pastoral care workers, journeys with patients and their families throughout their stay, and aims to maintain the best possible quality of life for patients and support their loved ones by encouraging them to live life to the fullest, to “Celebrate Life” and “Cherish Moments” together.

With professional advice, guidance and support from the SACH Palliative Care Team, Mei Mei’s family encouraged Madam Chin to live her life to the fullest.

Over the years, through interactions with patients and their loved ones, palliative care now denotes a journey of love. One such heartwarming journey was that of See Mei Mei and her late mother-in-law, Madam Chin Tin Tew, whom she affectionately addressed as “Mama”.

Smiling sweetly at the memory, 48-year-old Mei Mei shared, “I got to know my husband through my mother-in-law at the age of 18. When I got married at the age of 25, my mother advised me to love my mother-in-law as my own. Having lost my own father at the age of 30 years old, I also treated my father-in-law as my own father.”

Relishing the memories, Mei Mei recalled, “Mama and Papa were very cute and loved us very much. When Mama and Papa were in good health, we enjoyed going to the beach every weekend as a family. I loved learning to cook traditional dishes such as yam abacus seeds from them. It was a joy cooking for our family as they would eat everything I cook.”

In a softened tone, Mei Mei expressed, “In 2018, Mama was diagnosed with cancer. She was 74 years old. The sudden news shocked us and broke our hearts. She became weaker, needed assistance with showering and drainage of her urinary catheter every few hours throughout the day. At that time, my children were nine, 17 and 18 years old. I had quit my part-time job to take care of Mama. Every day, I would cook for her and shower her. When I stayed overnight with Mama to take care of her and do hourly drainage of her urinary catheter, my husband took care of our youngest kid. Eight months later, Mama’s condition worsened and she was admitted to Changi General Hospital (CGH). In view of Mama’s need for professional medical care, doctors from CGH advised us to admit her to SACH Palliative Care Ward. At that time, I struggled with the decision. I loved Mama very much and wanted to bring her home so that I could take care of her. After speaking with the care team, I relented as admitting her to SACH Palliative Care Ward was the best care plan for her.”

With her voice cracking, Mei Mei said, “It pained my heart when Mama suffered. We would often end up hugging each other and tearing together. Mama was a very strong and independent lady who did not like to trouble others for assistance. I felt gratified when she allowed me to attend to her personal hygiene and toileting needs. I was very touched that she treated me like her own daughter. Mama often told me that I should just let her go as she felt that it was tiring for me to take care of her.”

Justin Tan, Associate Chaplain of the Palliative Ward shared, “Mei Mei is a superstar daughter-in-law. I had witnessed heart-wrenching moments of the late Madam Chin and her hugging in tears when Madam Chin was in pain. She is one of the few daughters-in-law I know who loves and treats her mother-in-law like her own mother. Mei Mei cared for Madam Chin tirelessly day and night in the hospital and often brought home-cooked meals for her. Madam Chin told me that Mei Mei is the dream daughter every mother-in-law would love and even advised me to find a wife with her attributes!”

With professional advice, guidance and support from the SACH Palliative Care Team, Mei Mei’s family encouraged Madam Chin to live her life to the fullest. “Mama loved festivities and the many that the care team organised had brought Mama and my family much joy,” said Mei Mei. “She even had a caricature drawn of her at SACH. I treasured every moment with Mama. I was with Mama when she took her last breath. My love for her remains etched in my heart.”

Mei Mei’s Advice for caregivers
1. Do our best in caring for our loved ones, especially our parents. We are where we are because of them.
2. Forgive and forget.
3. Set aside time for yourself.
4. Seek professional help. Palliative care teams provide good support and advice for patients and caregivers. Besides caring for patients, the care team helps family members cope with distressing moments and prepares the family for the loss of their loved ones.

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